Saturday, April 25, 2015

Rangers finish off Crosby and Company - win series 4-1

 Ka-BOOM!  And that’s 4!

The New York Rangers – reaching down deep – found the guts - the determination – and the will to win to beat the Penguins at home in game five and close out the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Pittsburgh knew they couldn’t skate with us – and so they tried to grind it out.  It took a while – but slowly the Rangers began to wear their opponents down.

Stepan scored first – in the first – on the powerplay to put the Rangers on top 1-0 – using his feet to kick the puck to his own stick to beat Fleury from point blank range.

One ominous note – Mats Zuccarello took a puck to the head later on the first and did not return.  He’s being evaluated and all we can do is hope it’s not a concussion. 

But in the 2nd – the Penguins tied it on a controversial goal that may have been elbowed in and may have been goalie interference.  But after review it counted and on we went to the third. 

In the last regulation period both Crosby and J. T. Miller hit iron but did not score.  And so for the 2nd straight game we were going to overtime – ensuring that a 4th contest would end with the same 2-1 score.

The tension was sky high – the effort level was through the garden roof.  And the goalies – both spectacular.  Hanks was nearly perfect and Fleury was playing the best I had ever seen in his career. 

For ten minutes of OT the teams went up and down the ice – and as the game wore on the Rangers depth began to win out.  The tide was shifting to NY.

And then – on the final sequence – Moore fought off two Penguins in the right corner and got the puck to Hagelin.  The Swedish forward, with his back to Fleury skated toward the right circle.  And I don’t know if it was exhaustion or bad judgement – but Marc-Andre stayed on his knees and did not get back on his skates as this was transpiring. 

Suddenly Hagelin spun and fired the puck at Fleury.  The puck went short side and snuck past the Pittsburgh goaltender on his short side – and into the net – giving the Rangers a 70 minute 52 second victory in game 5 and it was time to shake hands.

While Fleury deserved a better fate – saving .944, Lundqvist was almost perfect in the Ranger nets – saving .974 of the 38 shots that came his way.  And so we say a prayer for Mats Zuccarello and await the winner of the Capitals-Islanders series.

What Did We Learn?  That the Rangers can close out a series in 5 games this year.
Assist “Sisters”:   One each for Brassard, Boyle (who played maybe his best game as a Ranger), McDonagh, and Moore.

Did Special Teams Determine The Outcome Of This Game?  Happily yes!  Rangers were 1-3 and they shut down the Penguins on their three attempts.

Where Do We Stand?  We close out the Penguins in 5 games.  12 wins from the cup!

Oh My - What Will Happen Next?  Wednesday night – so a few days off first.\


Non-Sequitur of the day:  Matt Harvey with his first ever win in the Bronx.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

That's 3! Hayes scores in OT to top Aquatic Birds

Welcome, Kevin Hayes, to the NHL playoffs!

Hayes had been such a big part of the Rangers success this year – coming out of nowhere to anchor the third line and fill the void left by the departure of Brad Richards.  With 17 goals and 28 assists in the regular season the 22 year old answered what had been a question mark in the Rangers line up when the season began.

But in his first ever NHL playoffs – the first year skater had been playing like a, well, like a rookie.  In 240 minutes of playoff hockey, Kevin’s efforts had been – there’s no other way to say it – literally pointless.

It’s not totally unexpected.  NHL playoff hockey is a different game than the regular season.  The speed, the hitting, and the intensity are much greater.  And it can take some getting used to it.

Last night in Pittsburgh, with the score tied 1-1, in the 4th minute of overtime, Marty St. Louis had the puck behind the Penguin’s goal.  He delivered a centering pass right to the goal cease.  Four Penguins collapsed back around Fleury to defend as Karl Hagelin took a few whacks at the puck but could not beat Fleury.  The puck slid across the crease – under the Penguin goalie’s arm – to Hayes – who slammed the two footer home to complete the Ranger come back and give them their first and only lead of the night. 

It completed the 2-1 victory – the Rangers third in 4 games with that same score, and send the Ranger back home with a 3-1 lead in the series.

This game had a different feel than the previous three.  For one thing, the Rangers played badly in the first period, getting outshot 8-2, and Pittsburgh scored first for the first time in the series.  And so , when the 2nd period began the Rangers had no lead to protect or lose.

Crosby, Malkin, and company were determined – but in the end they are just out manned by this deep Ranger team.  The Rangers outshot them 13-8 in the 2nd and tied the game at 17:55.  It was Brassard, taking several whacks at the puck before managing to slide it between the right post and Marc-Andre’s left skate and just over the line. 

The third period was closely contested – with Pittsburgh getting 7 shots to the Rangers 6.  But there were no goals and to overtime we went for the first time in the series – setting the stage for the rookie heroics of Kevin Hayes.  Fleury continues to pay well – with a 0.917 save percentage last night– but it was Lundqvist who saved 0.957% who won the day.  Bolstered by a Ranger defense that helped him throughout – something we have lacked in prior seasons – the Ranger’s net minder did everything he needed to win.


I think we can still play better against a Penguin team hampered by injuries.  But the Rangers adjust – adapt – and keep finding ways to win.  And now – those ways include Kevin Hayes.

What Did We Learn?  That the Rangers can go up 3-1 in a playoff series – something they failed to do last year.

Assist “Sisters”:   One each for St. Louis, McDonagh, Nash and Hagelin.

Did Special Teams Determine The Outcome Of This Game?  Happily no!  We were both 0-3.  Notice how when we win – the trouble with the powerplay is not a big deal at all?  (Just like faceoff wins.)

Where Do We Stand?  Up 3-1on the Penguins.  1 win from the 2nd round and 13 wins from the cup.

Oh My - What Will Happen Next?  Friday night we have game 5 at home.


Non-Sequitur of the day:  Mets!  10 in a row?  Who are these guys?

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Happiness! Rangers Beat Penguins to lead series at 2-1

Well, yay. 

Our New York Rangers have risen from the dead to beat Sidney Crosby and company 2-1 to regain the lead in this first round playoff series.

The Rangers have many ways they can beat you – and they use them all.  And when we lose game everyone talk about our lack of powerplay offense and our inability to win faceoffs.  But when we win?  Not so much.

Keith Yandle caught the Penguins on a bad change and fed a perfect pass to Carl Hagelin who beat Fleury for the 1-0 lead. 

And in the 2nd it was another amazing play.  Dan Girardi slams the puck deliberately wide of the net so that it bounces of the end boards and directly to Chris Kreider who buries the rebound. 

And that was all we needed.  Through two periods we limited Pittsburgh to 11 shots.  Of course they rose up in the third – scored one goal and nearly tied it.  But the Rangers held on and got the win.

We’ll take it.  And the series lead.
    
What Did We Learn?  We learned that the Rangers can still win a hockey game.

Assist “Sisters”:   Just defensemen!  Two for Dan Girardi.  One each for Staal and Yandle.

Did Special Teams Determine The Outcome Of This Game?  Happily no!  We were both 0-2 on the powerplay.  That’s fine.

Where Do We Stand?  Up 2-1on the Penguins.  2 wins from the 2nd round and 14 wins from the cup.

Oh My - What Will Happen Next?  Wednesday night we have game 4.


Non-Sequitur of the day:  Sidney Crosby.  I dislike him.  

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Sadness! Penguins Beat Rangers to tie series at 1-1

Okay – nobody thought we were going to sweep all 16 games.  But we all did think that maybe we could get out on NY with a 2-0 lead and put the pressure on Pittsburgh.  But – obviously that did not happen as the Rangers lost the 2nd period 3-0 in route to a 4-3 defeat against hated rivals the Pittsburgh Penguins.

There are not going to be many nights when Henrik Lundqvist posts an .818 save percentage – but that’s what happened last night. 

We only had three shots in the first – but took the lead anyway on a Derek Stepan goal.  We limited the Penguins to 5 shots in the first and 6 in the third – but the 11 shots on the 2nd resulted in three goals against. 

In the third we managed two goals – but Brassard and Nash (two late).  But Pittsburgh’s 4th goal made it just too hard to come back all the way.  Fleury saved 0.885% and somehow won with that. 

If you’re looking for positives – I see them.  Score three goals and limit Pittsburgh to 22 shots and we’re going to win most nights.  So no need to panic 

Not yet anyway.

What Did We Learn?  We learned that the Penguins are not a walk in the park.  This is a real series and we will have to play our best to survive.

Assist “Sisters”:   Assists for Miller, Stepan, Boyle, McDonagh, Zuccarello, and Yandle. 

Did Special Teams Determine The Outcome Of This Game?  Unfortunetly yes.  The Rangers were 1 for 7 on the powerplay.  The Penguins were 2 for 4.  And that was the hockey game.

Where Do We Stand?  Tied 1-1 with the Penguins.  Still 3 wins from the 2nd round and 15 wins from the cup.

Oh My - What Will Happen Next?  Monday night we have game 3.

Non-Sequitur of the day:  Mets are 7-0 at home


Thursday, April 16, 2015

Rangers down Penguins to take Playoff Opener

Boom!  That’s One!  The Rangers beat the Pittsburgh Penguins last night and took a 1-0 lead in the first round series of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. 

If Hockey’s official Get-Go is 28 seconds in – then the Rangers led this one from the Get-Go as Derek Brassard buried a long rebound past Marc-Andre Fleury that had come rocketing off his pads from a Rick Nash laser shot.  It was almost like a pass off the Penguin goalie.  And just like that the Rangers lead 1-0, a lead they never relinquished.

And then – later in the first on the power play – the Captain Ryan McDonagh firing the puck from near the blue line – between the legs of a Penguin defender and on past a partially screened Fleury for the 2-0 lead.

In all we outplayed, out hustled, and outshot the Penguins 13-5 in the first.  And the 2-0 lead was all we would need.

Pittsburgh did mount more offence in the 2nd and 3rd but could only muster a single goal.  Blake Como walked in and beat Hank from point blank range in the 2nd.  But from there on the Rangers played enough defense to limit the Pens to 25 shots – with many of them from bad angles.

Hank didn’t have to be spectacular to win this one -  but he was sharp and easily played well enough to win.  His 0.960 save percentage got the job done against an admirable 0.947 save percentage by Fleury.  It was not our best hockey game – but good enough to win.  And we’ll take it.

One scary moment was Dan Girardi taking a puck to the jaw and having to leave the game.  Coach Vigneault said afterwards that Girardi was being treated by a dentist.  That sounds good – I think – hopefully meaning he did not break his jaw.

What Did We Learn?  We learned that the Rangers can function as front runners – handling Pittsburgh and the pressure of the President’s trophy to grab game one.

Assist “Sisters”:   Assists for Girardi, Zuccarello, Nash and (glad we got) Yandle. 

Did Special Teams Determine The Outcome Of This Game?  YES!  The Rangers powerplay goal was the difference in the 2-1 game.  We stopped Pittsburgh on their lone powerplay and connected on 1 of our five chances.

Where Do We Stand?  The Standings are gone now – but we have 1 of the 16 wins we need to hoist the Stanley Cup.  We lead Pittsburgh 1-0.  A long way to go -  but we’ve done as well as we could have so far.

Oh My - What Will Happen Next?  Saturday night we have game 2.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Ranger beat chippy Devils to gain NHL's top spot

So.  We’ve played 80 games and now we have nothing left to play for.

But in a good way.

Because the Rangers – with two games left to play have clinched everything there is to clinch. 

The Playoffs?  Check

First Place in the Metro?  Yes again

First Place in the Eastern Conference.  Why yes again

First place in the National Hockey League?  Yup.

52 wins.  111 points.  Are these really our New York Rangers?  Somehow yes they are.

And the latest brick in this mighty fortress we have built was Tuesday’s 4-2 win over the hated New Jersey Devils.

For a while the Devils just cross checked and tried to hurt us.  But after a talk with the referees the Devils started skating and competing and gave the Rangers a run for their money.

Hayes and McDonagh scored in the first – with Ryan getting a rare Ranger powerplay goal.  Of course we never do things the easy way – so the Devils made it 2-1 – also on the power play and also in the first.  So we went to the 2nd period up 2-1 and exited the period the same way.

In the third Dominic Moore shot the puck from an impossible angle from the right corner – and James Shepard got a perfect stick on the puck to slide it through Cory Schneider  for the 3-1 lead.

Of course the Devils quickly made it 3-2 and so it went to the final two minutes.  But then – with the net empty – Hayes came up with the puck in the offensive zone and put a perfect no-look pass on the stick of Carl Hagelin – who buried the puck for the 4-2 final score. 

It was Cam Talbot tonight – resting Hank on the back to back and adding an exclamation point on his heroic season.  Because it was Talbot who made this amazing season possible – filling in for an injured Lundqvist in an incredible fashion and catapulting us toward the President’s trophy.  Talbot stopped 0.905% of the shots he faced and that was good enough.

Congratulations Rangers – it’s been a great regular season – one to never forget.   But of course – what comes next is going to forever change it – for better or worse.  But for this one moment – let’s make a breath and look around at what Vigneault and his heroes have accomplished.

Nice work men.

What Did We Learn?  We learned that the New York Rangers are the measurably best team in hockey this year.  At least for now.

Assist “Sisters”:   Two for Hayes to go with his goal.  Single assists for Staal, MSL, Moore, Hagelin and Yandle.

Did Special Teams Determine The Outcome Of This Game?  No I guess.  We were 1 for 7 on the powerplay – including some scoreless 5 on 3.  The Devils were 1 for 2. 

Where Do We Stand?  You know.  At the top.  Of everything.

Oh My - What Will Happen Next?  A meaningless game against Ottawa on Thursday.  At least it’s meaningless for us.

Non-Sequitur of the day:  Johnny B Goode is in B flat because that is good a piano key.


Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Stepan ties it in last minute - wins it in OT - Rangers 4 - Columbus 3


I’m actually sad that this magical regular season is ending soon.  Because it’s been a joy to watch these Rangers compete night after night and use speed, skill, determination, and hard work to beat so many opponents night after night.

Last night it was the Columbus Blue Jackets – who had won 9 straight games and were playing an impressive aggressive brand of hockey – recapturing a large measure of the pride they lost by missing the playoffs this year.  Columbus is littered with ex-Rangers – including Dubinsky and Anisimov.  Of course – if those jerks had kept Gaborik instead of trading him – the Rangers would probably have won the cup a year ago.  And no, I will not get over that.

Anyway – the Rangers took on this 9-in-a-row team playing for nothing other than the opportunity to beat teams like us.  And they almost did.  But the Rangers keep scrapping and fighting and found a way to tie the score in the game’s last minute and then  win in overtime – with boht of those key goals coming from Derek Stepan – with huge assist by Chis Kreider – who is becoming a star right in front of us.

In the first – Kevin Hayes didn’t actually passed to St. Louis.  Hayes was converged on and was separated from the puck on the rush – but Marty swooped in to grab a loose puck and netted his shot for the 1-0 lead.

Columbus found a way to tie and then early in the second the Rangers put on a passing clinic with Kreider and Stepan culminating in a Dan Girardi rocket to make it 2-1.

From there the Blue Jackets poured it on – tying the game in the 2nd and taking a late lead in the third.

 And so – with Lundqvist on the bench for the extra skater in the game’s final regulation minute – it was hero time.

The puck deflected to Chris Kreider in a crowd at the front of the net with his back to Bobrovsky.  As the Blue Jackets swarmed to him – Kreider passed the puck to a wide open Derek Stepan about ten feet out on the left.  Derek had some net to shoot at and he made it count – tying the score with just 28 seconds left in regulation and sending the Garden into a happy frenzy.  And we saw an odd sight – Lundqvist fist bumping from the bench in a game he started and eventually won.

And so – on to overtime as the Rangers refused to lose.  After some thrilling action at both ends – it was Kreider again cutting across in front of Bobrovsky, drawing the Columbus defenders to him – and then getting the puck to Stepan who skated close in on the left side and buried the game winner. 

Another rousing come-from-behind win in a season filled with heroics.  Lundqvist made some great saves and with a .906 save percentage – gave his team a chance to win – which they did in dramatic fashion.  Another great night in a magic season.

What Did We Learn?  That the team is playoff ready.

Assistance:   Two huge assists by Kreider.  Singles by:  Miller, Hayes, Stepan (to go with his 2 goals), and Yandle (who is more of a Ranger every day)

Did Special Teams Determine The Outcome Of This Game?  Sort of.  We were a perfect 3-3 on the kill, but 0-3 on the powerplay.   

Where Do We Stand?  Remember when we were fighting the Caps for 3rd place and forever chasing the Islanders?  Well this morning we have 109 points.  109.  Hard to believe but there it is.  3 points up on Montreal with a game at hand for the best in the East.  And 4 points up on St. Louis with a game at hand for the president’s trophy.  Truly amazing

Oh My - What Will Happen Next?  The Devils tonight in New Jersey.  I wonder if Cam will get a strat on the back-to-back?

Non-Sequitur of the day:  Mets win their opener!  Fatso Colon stops the Nationals!